This political journey quickly turned into a personal journey for Simonsen. As she toured farms, a theme repeated itself: “Farm what you love.”
Simonsen recalls childhood days spent playing in her grandmother’s herb garden. She and her sisters would pick herbs to cover cuts and scrapes, or add them to empty vitamin capsules. As children, she says they believed in magic, and were empowered to heal themselves with nature.
If anyone can do it, it’s Rubie. This free spirit places community action above all else. Earlier this year, she bought a VW van, moved out of her apartment and lived in her vehicle to push herself to experience life without materialism. “Meeting humanity’s basic needs should be a given,” says Rubie. “Sadly, even in America, it is not. By focusing on creating an equitable food system we are choosing to provide healthy food for all, living wages for all and setting our visions high for self-sustainable and resilient communities.”
A few weeks after her stay in jail, Simonsen was having dinner with a friend when her ex spotted them and eventually punched her male companion into a pole. Blood pooled around his head as Simonsen screamed. Only after that incident was she granted a restraining order by the Sacramento Superior Court, according to court records.
Since then, she has replaced old patterns with new ones. Farming and its repetitive motions ask her to flow through each thought in a daily meditation, instead of stewing in anger. “It’s like washing it out.”
The young farmer has done so much healing, an outsider might even sense that she is grateful for what she’s been through. “It’s made me stronger,” she says. She claims she is not mad at her ex.
According to the last USDA Agricultural Census in 2012, the results of which are stark, the average farmer is 58 years old, and getting older. Farmers are retiring, and their children aren’t taking up farming.
Simonsen, who grew up mostly in urban Sacramento, credits a great deal to the intensive nine-month California Farm Academy Beginning Farmer Training Program for her new understanding of growing practices to marketing and planning.
She knew that before she got started, she would need a good business plan for what she was going to grow.
“I needed to find something that was shelf stable, and able to grow, harvest, and sell at different times of the year, particularly as I looked to sell outside labor-intensive sales channels like farmers’ markets,” Simonsen says.
Rubie Simonsen doesn’t fit the traditional paradigm of a farmer. She’s in her 20s and wears a Frida Kalho t-shirt and has a leather portrait of Kalho on her keychain. She is part of a growing number of millennials intent on making something of the world that surrounds them.
”I was at my last job,” She says “Sitting at my desk, looking out the window and all I could think about was my farm.” She continues, "I needed to start this farm, to have dirt under my nails and see something grow.”
Although food is being elevated for its local roots farmers aren’t raking in cash from events like the Tower Bridge Dinner that aim to promote the City’s new identity. Frankly it’s just the opposite their asking for the food for free. Fundraising on the plate shouldn’t be the model in our City. When we profess to support our farmers, and be a City of Locavores we should be putting our money where our mouth is.
If I had started farming because I thought the timing was right in Sacramento I would be a damn fool. To some I still am a fool because the economics of farming has always been broken.